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European Council Meetings (Continued)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 802 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] The Deputy asks why I would not stand up and defend the position he articulated here even once. It is not just about doing so on one occasion. It is pointing out on a consistent basis what Europe needs to do to rectify its problems. The first thing it must do is follow through on its own decisions. If there are additional proposals that are of benefit to the European economies and can create jobs and stimulate growth, I can assure the Deputy that the European Council is more than amenable to working with any such suggestions. All the think tanks in the world will not be able to sort this out unless countries themselves take the actions that are necessary at national level and work as a unit to grow the Union. Clearly, there are serious challenges ahead and the situation in many countries is fragile but it must be dealt with. If someone says we can suddenly arrive at billions of a stimulus, that would be great but the real world does not work that way. While Mr. Draghi has pointed out that he will do whatever is necessary at European Central Bank level to protect the euro and is doing so, governments individually and collectively as a eurozone and Union need to follow through on decisions. We have been and will continue to be very strong and vociferous on that because that is where the future growth and benefit will come from for, as the Deputy pointed out, millions of people.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Those of us on the Left who have criticised the strategy pursued by the Government and European leaders have repeatedly pointed to an alternative strategy. When somebody talks about alternatives, the Taoiseach is obviously not interested. He denounces us for never having alternatives but when we try to talk about them, he does not listen. Our alternative strategy, which has been repeated endlessly and which people like the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources would probably have supported in opposition, is for a radical redistribution of wealth and capital away from the private financial sector and multinationals towards public enterprise and public investment to create jobs. That is the alternative solution that was attempted even by non-socialist governments in the 1930s and 1940s and which in some way began to chart a way out of the crisis of that period.

Instead of that, the Taoiseach continues to peddle myths and pursue a failed strategy. Will he stop repeating the untruth that we are borrowing €1 million every month to pay social welfare? Will he please correct that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The figure is €1 billion.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I appeal to the media to scrutinise that statement. We are borrowing €12 billion or so every year and €8 billion of that goes towards interest on debt. Will the Taoiseach please acknowledge that fact? It would be helpful in having a serious debate. A total of €8 billion, which is two thirds of what we are borrowing, is being used to pay interest on debts. That is a fact. Please admit it.

Is the Taoiseach not living in a dream world when he says confidence is returning to the private sector? Is he not aware that the purchasing managers' index in the past week or so has reported the largest fall in employment in the manufacturing sector in four years in this economy and that manufacturing overall has, for the past four years, fallen at the fastest pace in recent times? The export and manufacturing sectors, on which the Taoiseach has placed so much emphasis in pointing to the so-called successes of our economy, is seeing an unprecedented decline. It is just about balanced by some expansion in the service sector but I put it to the Taoiseach that when manufacturing is in trouble, the economy as a whole is in very serious trouble.

Is it not a fact that Ireland was the guinea pig? We were the laboratory experiment for an austerity policy that has devastated our economy. As that experiment is being applied to the rest of Europe, just as we predicted would happen, it is devastating the rest of the European economy to the point that even the think tank, Bruegel, which presented a report at the recent European Council, the European Commission, the OECD and, most recently, the Italian Prime Minister all say the austerity strategy has failed and something must be done about it. The Taoiseach says he is not a fan of austerity and that what we need is competitiveness and structural reform but this same argument is being made in Europe. Again, this is an Orwellian playing with words. Austerity involves competitiveness measures and so-called structural reform. Competitiveness is a code word for attacking pay and conditions. Structural reform is a code word for privatisation. So when the Taoiseach says that we are in favour of alternatives to austerity, what he is really saying is that the alternative to austerity is more austerity but with different names.

We on this side of the House are asking the Taoiseach to genuinely consider alternatives given the mounting evidence that policy that has been pursued and that has focused on propping up private banks, imposing cuts in pay and conditions and privatising sectors of the economy, has demonstrably failed; that European economies are like lemmings following each other over the cliff into economic depression; and that we need to seriously debate and scrutinise alternatives and consider the alternative proposed by those on the Left not just in this country but across Europe. Such an alternative focuses on redistribution through taxes on wealth and capital and redirecting those moneys into public investment and enterprise, employment and infrastructure projects that would put people back to work and facilitate growth. I put it to the Taoiseach that if we do not go down that road, we are stumbling from a recession into an economic depression. Is that not what all the evidence is mounting up to say? Is that not clearly apparent when even those in the middle and on the right of the economic and political spectrum accept that the strategy is failing and that we need to move beyond political point scoring, look at the facts and look at alternative ways of dealing with the crisis?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I never thought I would hear Deputy Boyd Barrett appealing to the media for help. He was always able to generate a bit of heat and coverage. The fact of the matter is that we are borrowing €12 billion every year - €1 billion per month - and this figure goes to pay public salaries and social protection payments whether the Deputy likes it or not.

  The Deputy should appreciate that the structure of economies is changing very rapidly. I had the privilege of opening a unit in Parkwest in Dublin last week. It has a very simple name for the Deputy to remember - I did not hear its story on the radio but the company was founded by two brothers, one of whom was unemployed. Due to their capacity to use their various talents, they are now one of the leading enterprises in Europe for supplying car parts online, employ more than 60 people and have a design capacity to inform people and supply. It is an exceptional operation.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Fair play to

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny One does not hear as much of that story as one should. A person was unemployed, said they were going to do something about it and over a couple of years, has grown an enterprise that is outstanding in its effectiveness, efficiency and ability to supply internationally and is one of the leading players in Europe.

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